Today it seems that everyone is wired via computers, cell phones, PDAs, televisions, and interactive gaming.
But, is all this connectivity good for us?
While there is no doubt technology is great for obtaining information and connecting with people next door or across continents, it also poses some very real health, social, and safety concerns.
Technology’s impact on health
The Internet makes health information accessible to many people. With information from reputable websites, we can lose weight, develop exercise plans, investigate a recent diagnosis, and even find support for health and life issues.
In this way, technology serves us by giving us the information that we need to make informed decisions or ask better questions.
However, when technology becomes our master, health can suffer. Large amounts of time spent sitting in front of the television or computer takes its toll on our health – physically, mentally, and socially. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the average gamer (aged 35) is more likely to be overweight, depressed, and introverted. This may be due to people using Internet gaming to self-medicate or escape from reality.
Lack of exercise due to gaming and TV viewing, often combined with poor diet, has led to a rise in obesity.
Obesity, gaming, and cell phone-related accidents are all on the rise.
In 2006, 17.6% of children aged 12 to 19 years were obese – up more than 300% from 1980.
Technology’s role in education
Of course, the Internet serves as a major source of resource material for students and reporters. It has never been easier – or faster – to research information; though one must be careful to verify sources.
Cell phones also impact education. Teens with cell phones send an average of 400 text messages a week. More than 25 percent of them are sent while the student is in the classroom. This seriously distracts from learning.
Also, teachers today are seeing a decline in students’ ability to spell and write correctly because of the incorrect practice they gain through texting. “Why” becomes “y,” “you are” becomes “u r,” and so on. Though most phones come equipped with the ability to add punctuation, most people usually forgo such grammatical conventions.
Technology’s social impact
It is hard to imagine a world without technology. Web cams allow face-to-face chats with loved ones around the world; cell phones provide constant connections to children and parents; business deals are completed faster. Technology allows us to keep in touch and share the details of life.
Technology serves to make communication easier and bring people closer together.
But, it also has a downside.
The advance of technology through email, texting, blogging, and posting has taken away the subtle nuances of expression that make up 80 percent of human communication.
Without the physical presence of the person and these non-verbal cues, we are in danger of disclosing too many personal details. The increase in social media takes this a step further as pictures, videos, and comments are posted on the Internet for the world to see – often without permission.
Losing control of personal information can be dangerous. It can be circulated online forever. Young people often do not recognize this danger; some have damaged their reputations by posting inappropriate comments or questionable pictures. This information can interfere with future job opportunities and
Disclosing information and posting improper images in the seemingly safe anonymity of cyberspace can give online predators the tools they need to develop relationships with unsuspecting users. A 40-year-old man can pose as a 12-year-old girl and lure his victim into a potentially dangerous situation.
Remember, there is no way to tell if the people you communicate with online are actually who they say they are. Even if you recognize your friend’s user name, recent reports suggest user names can be hijacked and used for fraud and identity theft.
Unwholesome addiction: the hard-core facts
The same technology used to provide information for positive purposes can also become a powerful master as people join sub-culture groups to disseminate destructive materials or information.
More than one unsuspecting person has accidentally stumbled across a pornographic site.
According to a 2006 study:
4.2 million (12% of total websites) are pornographic
34% have received unwanted exposure to sexual material
89% of sexual solicitations of youth are made in chat rooms
1 in 7 – the number of youths who received sexual solicitation (down from 2003 stat of 1 in 3)
11 years – the average age of first Internet porn exposure
29% of 7- to 17-year-olds would freely give their home addresses
DWT: driving while texting
A commuter train crash kills 25 people – the engineer was texting. A celebrating teenager crashes into a tractor-trailer killing four other people – the driver may have been texting.
Driving while texting (DWT) is more than a distraction; increasing evidence suggests it’s a potentially fatal problem.
A recent Nationwide Insurance survey found nearly 40 percent of 18- to 30-year-old drivers who own cell phones said they text while driving. A study of the effects of texting on driving attentiveness by researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that the risk of crashing while texting is similar to the risk of crashing while driving after having three to four alcoholic drinks.
Cyber-bullying is on the rise. It commonly occurs in chat rooms where bullies know their victims and publish hurtful text or images designed to harass, humiliate, or threaten their targets. Unlike real-world situations, a cyber-bully has access to the victim 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, through online communication.
A survey of fourth- through eighth-grade children reported that 58 percent received mean or hurtful messages online. They did not tell their parents. *Source iSafe
Nintendo steps up to the plate for health
The Nintendo Wii system moves video games off the couch and onto the floor. The system requires players to use their arms and legs to mimic movements of boxing, bowling, golf, or other sports. This interaction provides a workout that is equivalent to a light jog.
The introduction of the Wii system not only helps people get into shape, it also helps with rehabilitation. Ministry’s Our Lady of Victory Hospital has recently added a Wii system to its rehab department.
“We use the Nintendo Wii system to engage patients of all ages, including patients as young as four, who sometimes have a hard time with traditional strength or balancing exercises,” said Steve Seiberling, DPT – director of rehab services at Our Lady of Victory Hospital. “We can use the software to help patients retrain their arms or strengthen their hips after a hip replacement; the ‘game’ engages them while they’re participating in their therapy.
“Our patients love it – they do things for longer periods of time and they look forward to exercising. It’s a fun way to improve function,” said Seiberling.
Is technology use a problem for you?
While there is no established definition of technology addiction, there is no doubt that some people are compelled to stay virtually connected. The popularity of text messaging, and computer and video gaming can lead to compulsive behavior.
According to Edward Buda, PhD, a psychologist at Ministry Medical Group in Stevens Point, “Since many people use the computer as an escape, heavy users may become annoyed when real people and real situations interrupt the constant stream of online stimulation.”
If left unchecked, it can interfere with job performance, relationships, and health. “While we don’t currently treat technology addiction in particular, we treat people with addiction problems,” said Mike Slavin, CSAC, ICS, clinical supervisor and AODA counselor at Ministry Behavioral Health’s Residential Treatment Center.